I was able to spend 10 days in Israel with my amazing wife, Rene Clark, recently. I have had people tell me for years things like …
“You will never read the Bible the same again.”
“It will take the Bible from black and white to full HD color!”
And I have to admit, this being my first trip, I was hopeful but skeptical.
The first night in Israel we stayed in Tel Aviv on the Mediterranean Sea right near Joppa where Jonah would have set off on his journey to run from God. Then on to Nazareth for night two and the Sea of Galilee on the third night. These were LONG 10 hour days of travel and sightseeing.
Yet all three nights I woke up at exactly 3am wide eyed.
On nights one and two I laid in bed for what seemed like hours until I began to sleep again. On the third night I decided not to fight it! I got up at 3:15am and went out and sat on the Sea of Galilee. It quickly became a “thin space” where God felt as close as He has ever felt.
And at 5:16am I realized this is not Jesus in Narnia!
This is where Jesus lived.
This is where Jesus walked.
This is where Jesus talked.
This is where Jesus ate fish!
After two days on the Sea of Galilee we moved on to Bethlehem for three more days and nights before heading home.
It was a truly life altering pilgrimage.
If you have never been to the Holy Land, I sure hope you get to go one day. But until then here are a few of the photos I took so you can …
Spend today in Israel!
(Click on photos to enlarge full screen.)
Sunset on the Mediterranean Sea / Tel Aviv / Joppa (click to enlarge)
The biblical town of Joppa is today known as Jaffa. This was the main port of the coast before the Israelis constructed the ports of Haifa and Ashdod. The modern city of Tel Aviv was founded on the outskirts of Jaffa in 1909 and today it encompasses the ancient city. Tel Aviv means “the Hill of Spring” and it is the same name as the city of a settlement in Babylon during the Exile (Ezek 3:15). Today the Tel Aviv area is the largest metropolitan area in Israel.
The Aqueduct in Caesarea Maritima (click to enlarge)
This city was one of the most important cities in Israel during the time of Christ and the first few centuries of the early church. It was the home of Cornelius, the first Gentile convert (Acts 10:1) and of Philip the evangelist (Acts 8:40). Herod Antipas was smitten by an angel of the Lord at Caesarea (Acts 12:21-23) and the apostle Paul visited the city on many occasions (Acts 9:30; 23:23-35). In this first century this city was usually referred to as Caesarea of Palestine, but is now referred to as Caesarea Maritima, i.e., Caesarea by the Sea. When Judea was ruled by the Romans, their governors resided in Caesarea. “The Romans annexed Judaea in 6 B.C., and made Caesarea the headquarters of the provincial governor and his administration. Of these governors Pontius Pilate was one. At first the province was known as Judaea, later Palestina.
Ancient “Mona Lisa” like mosaic / Sepphoris (click to enlarge)
At the summit near the theater is a large dining room floor from the beginning of the 3rd century A.D. The house was built around a colonnaded yard and had two floors. The building included a central triclinium and was most likely the home of an important Gentile person. It might have been the city or district governor. The triclinium mosaic includes 1.5 million stones in 28 colors. The beautiful woman in the mosaic is known today as the “Mona Lisa of the Galilee.” She is depicted wearing a laurel garland and earrings. A similar figure was on the southern side of the frame and can still be partly seen today.
Two thousand year old streets in Sepphoris / Jesus would have walked / Still have the grooves of chariots and carts
Josephus called Sepphoris “the ornament of all Galilee.” Herod Antipas chose this site in 4 BC. as the capital of his government. He most likely built the theater as well. Josephus said Sepphoris was the largest city in Galilee and an exceptionally strong fortress at the time of the First Revolt in 66 AD. The people of Sepphoris supported Vespasian in the Jewish Revolt, surrendering to the Romans and thus preventing the destruction of the city (War III.2.4). They even minted coins in honor of Vespasian as the “peace maker.”
The Church of the Annunciation (click to enlarge)
The towering cupola of the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth stands over the cave that tradition holds to be the home of the Virgin Mary. Here, it is believed, the archangel Gabriel told the young Mary, aged about 14, that she would become the mother of the Son of God. And here Mary uttered her consent: “Let it be done to me according to your word.” The outcome of Mary’s consent is carved in Latin across the façade over the triple-doorway entrance: “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The massive two-story basilica, in strikingly modern architectural style and colorfully decorated, became the largest Christian church in the Middle East when it was completed in 1969. It contains two churches, the upper one being the parish church for Nazareth’s Catholic community.
The Church of the Transfiguration / Mount Tabor (click to enlarge)
The Gospel accounts of the Transfiguration — a momentous event in which Peter, James and John were introduced to the divine incarnation of Christ, the God-Man — do not specify the place. They simply say it was a “high mountain” in Galilee. Christian tradition in the early centuries named the mountain as Tabor.
Amphitheater at Beth She’an (click to enlarge)
Located 17 miles south of the Sea of Galilee, Beth She’an is situated at the strategic junction of the Harod and Jordan Valleys. The fertility of the land and the abundance of water led the Jewish sages to say, “If the Garden of Eden is in the land of Israel, then its gate is Beth Shean.”
Beth She’an (click to enlarge)
Pompey and the Romans rebuilt Beth Shean in 63 BC and it was renamed Scythopolis (“city of the Scythians”). It became the capital city of the Decapolis and was the only one on the west side of the Jordan. The city continued to grow and prosper in the Roman and Byzantine periods until it was destroyed on January 18, 749 by an earthquake.
Beth She’an (click to enlarge)
The Bible mentions Beit She’an as one of the Canaanite cities which was not conquered by the Israelites under Joshua. (Joshua 17:1 1-12; Judges 1:27) The city is again mentioned after the defeat of the Israelite army of King Saul by the Philistines on Mt. Gilboa (south of the city), when they impaled the bodies of King Saul and his sons on the walls of Beit She’an. (I Samuel 31:10-12)
Sea of Galilee (click to enlarge)
The Sea of Galilee is fed by the Jordan River, rainfall and springs on the northern side. More properly designated a lake, it is 13 miles long and 7 miles wide. At its deepest point the lake is only 150 feet deep. It is the largest fresh water lake in Israel. It is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth and the second-lowest lake overall after the Dead Sea, which is salt water.
Rene & I in the Synagogue in Capernaum where Jesus would have stood! (click to enlarge)
In existence from the 2nd c. B.C. to the 7th c. A.D., Capernaum was built along the edge of the Sea of Galilee and had up to 1500 residents. Jesus made Capernaum his home during the years of his ministry: “Leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum” (Matt 4:13). Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen living in the village. Matthew the tax collector also dwelt here.
The Synagogue in Capernaum (click to enlarge)
Excavations have revealed a synagogue from the time of Jesus with walls made of worked stone and 4 feet thick. These earlier walls were preserved up to 3 feet high and the entire western wall still exists and was used as the foundation for the later synagogue. Jesus was confronted by a demoniac while teaching here (Mark 1:21-27). In Capernaum, Jesus healed the servant of the centurion. This Roman official was credited with building the synagogue (Luke 7:3). In this synagogue, Jesus gave the sermon on the bread of life (John 6:35-59).
Qumran Caves (click to enlarge)
Discovered by a Bedouin shepherd chasing a stray, the initial Dead Sea Scrolls found here changed the study of the Old Testament. The seven scrolls discovered in this cave were the Manual of Discipline, War of Sons of Light, Thanksgiving Scroll, Isaiah A and B, Genesis Apocryphon and Habakkuk Commentary. This most famous of the Dead Sea Scroll caves is also the most significant in terms of finds. More than 15,000 fragments from over 200 books were found in this cave, nearly all by Bedouin thieves. 122 biblical scrolls (or fragments) were found in this cave. From all 11 Qumran caves, every Old Testament book is represented except Esther. No New Testament books or fragments have been found.
Herod the Great / Palace / Masada (click to enlarge)
Masada is an ancient fortification in the Southern District of Israel situated on top of an isolated rock plateau, on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert, overlooking the Dead Sea. Herod the Great built palaces for himself on the mountain and fortified Masada between 37 and 31 BCE. According to Josephus, the Siege of Masada by troops of the Roman Empire towards the end of the First Jewish–Roman War ended in the mass suicide of the 960 Sicarii rebels and their families hiding there.
The Dome of the Rock (click to enlarge)
The Dome of the Rock is a Muslim shrine that was built on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in AD 691. The Dome of the Rock is part of a larger Muslim holy area that takes up a significant portion of what is also known as Mount Moriah in the heart of Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock gets its name from the fact that it is built over the highest part (the dome) of Mount Moriah which is where Jews and Christians believe Abraham was prepared to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God (Genesis 22:1–14). It is also considered to be the location of the threshing floor of Araunah, the Jebusite, where David built an altar to the Lord (2 Samuel 24:18). It is also on or very near the site that Herod’s Temple stood before it was destroyed in AD 70 by the Roman army. Some even believe the rock might have been the location of the Holy of Holies that was a part of the Jewish Temple where the Jewish High Priest would enter once a year to make atonement for Israel’s sins. The platform or Temple Mount area that houses the Dome of the Rock was built in the first century AD under the rule of Herod the Great as part of his rebuilding of the second Jewish Temple. Jesus worshiped at Herod’s Temple and it was there that He prophesied its destruction (Matthew 24:1–2). Jesus’ prophecy was fulfilled when the temple was destroyed by the Roman army in AD 70.
The Western Wall (click to enlarge)
The Western Wall is the most holy place accessible to the Jewish people because of Muslim control of the Temple Mount. Known in recent centuries as the “Wailing Wall,” this was built by Herod the Great as the retaining wall of the Temple Mount complex. The plaza was created as an area for prayer when Israel captured the Old City in 1967. At times tens of thousands of people gather here for prayer.
The Western Wall / Wailing Wall (click to enlarge)
The Wailing Wall, also known as the Western Wall, is a 187-foot-high section of the ancient wall of Herod’s Temple, the second temple built on that spot. The Wailing Wall is on the western side of the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. Herod the Great constructed the oldest layers of the wall between 20 B.C and 19 B.C. as the second Jewish temple was being built. The wall extends for 1600 feet, but houses built against it obscure most of its length. Today the exposed portion of the Wailing Wall faces a large plaza in the Jewish Quarter, which has been a venue for pilgrimage and prayer for Jews since the 16th century.
Jerusalem / View from the Mount of Olives (click to enlarge)
The city of Jerusalem was originally built around the Gihon Spring, on the southeastern hill to the south (left) of the Temple Mount, which is today crowned with the gold-domed Dome of the Rock. Jerusalem has been continuously inhabited since at least 3000 BC, but it was only in the time of Solomon that the city limits expanded beyond the southeastern spur, known today as the “City of David.”
The Garden Tomb (click to enlarge)
In Jerusalem for a visit in 1883, General Charles Gordon spied a prominent rocky crag which looked to him like it could be the “place of the skull” mentioned in the Bible as where Jesus was crucified. Around the corner Gordon identified an ancient tomb and putting the two together he located the hill of crucifixion and the nearby burial place. While officially the Garden Tomb Association only maintains this as a possible site for Christ’s burial, some tour guides of the site are convinced of the authenticity. They note the large cistern nearby, which proves the area must have been a garden in Jesus’ day. They maintain that there are marks of Christian veneration at the tomb which also prove its sanctity throughout the ages. This is the place believed by many to be the resting place of Jesus.
What are your thoughts on these images or your favorite experiences in Israel?
Live Curious Friends.